On Monday, the city of Portland made public a call for project proposals from contractors interested in getting paid $50,000 to collect community feedback on what should happen to the monuments and what should become of other city monuments considered controversial for representing a person or movement that may have harmed marginalized communities. All five statues under consideration—Promised Land, Harvey Scott, Teddy Roosevelt, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln—were toppled by protesters in 2020 for this reason.
"Monuments are a critical part of the city’s identity, enlivening landscapes and promoting dialogue among people of all ages and backgrounds," reads the city's request for proposals (also referred to as an RFP). "Although Portland has been home to Indigenous people for thousands of years, and although people of color have enriched our City in significant countless ways, these histories are not well-reflected among the City’s monuments. We acknowledge that Portland’s monuments have played an important role in our region’s racial justice reckoning, offering stark reminders of our city, state, and country’s colonial, racist past."
"The situation requires a new, public process that includes all impacted individuals and communities, and the city wants this process developed by an external partner distinct from the partners involved in selecting, placing, and maintaining the existing collection," the RFP adds.
Per the request, the contractor must propose a strategy to engage with Portlanders from all communities, with an emphasis on Black, Indigenous and other people of color. The city hopes this process can provide a road map for future community engagement plans to follow.
"While the immediate subject is monuments, the city is looking for proposals that will have lasting impacts on the city’s ability to engage with Portland’s diverse communities—specifically, proposals that increase Portlanders’ understanding of city government and create new pathways to be engaged in public processes," reads the RFP. "This project will advance antiracism and equity in the city and build trust with the people we serve."
Once the selected contractor has adequately collected community feedback on the future of these monuments and others, they will be required to present recommendations to City Council. It will be on commissioners to then determine what to do with the five toppled monuments—and introduce a new policy regarding controversial city monuments more broadly.
Proposals from interested contractors are due no later than April 14. The city has reserved $50,000 for this contract work, which will begin by the end of May. It's a quick-turn job: The contractor must present its recommendations to City Council by June 30.
This city process is separate from the one underway regarding the city's Thompson Elk statue, which formerly stood on a stone pedestal on SW Main, and was damaged during the 2020 protests. The future of the statue, aptly titled Elk, will be hashed out in city design review commission hearings over the summer.